Riley got braces today.
Her first dental appointment when she was a little girl was a nightmare for her and one of the worst experiences of my parenting journey thus far. As she got older it was evident she had a major need for orthodontia but I doubted she’d ever be able to tolerate it.
Today, she was so excited. She could not wait.
To her, braces mean being a tween. Being cool. Being like everyone else.
After her appointment, we went to the mall (and we never go to malls, I hate them) because she wanted to. She wanted to celebrate. We got smoothies and then walked around.
She still gets panicky and reaches for my hand stepping onto escalators, unable to perceive depth well. She’ll forget to let go when we get off the escalator and continue holding my hand as we walk through the mall, (not too cool for that at eleven years old). Hand in hand, this is when I am reminded how much she still reacts internally to external stimuli. She may not scream, but holding her hand, I feel her tension. When we walk by something extra noisy or a scary poster, or a perfume salesperson getting too close in our faces, she flinches. Her hand grips mine extra hard.
She still has sensory issues, but she gets through it. Brave, brave girl. She has worked so hard to be where she is now.
Our orthodontist has been building a relationship with her for years, preparing her for this day. Having us come in every six months, free of charge, just to peek in her mouth. Not even doing anything, just getting her used to him. Getting her used to the idea. Selling her on the coolness of braces.
Some days I am overcome by the kindness of people.
In the chair today, Riley asked intelligent questions. She dealt with all the sensory components of getting her braces on. She beamed when they gave her a mirror to check herself out in. She was pleased with her choice of neon green and purple bands.
She’s happy. She’s a happy girl.
I have this feeling, she’s going to be okay.
And I will never take it for granted.